counter on tumblr
Barton Regatta

This is the story behind the 1907 Humber sloop that was to help fight two wars and join the search for the Loch Ness monster.

Phyllis 1907. Loa 68ft, Beam16ft.4, Draft 7ft.4, Official Number 124785. Yard Number 60. Sail Number 26148.

Web Design



Updated: April 2016

Sailing at South Ferriby

RNLI logo


Barton Watermen's Regatta.

Sports days and regattas were a very popular event for the local communities who lived on the banks of our rivers. They had been held for a hundred or more years at wharfs and staithes the length of the Humber and its tributaries located at the many prominent towns and villages such as Stainforth, West Stockwith, Owsten Ferry and Gainsborough. South Ferriby also had its day of sport and was able by its location to utilise both the Humber and the River Ancholme, with yacht races and motor boat races on the Humber. South Ferriby was perhaps one of the larger and more popular regattas or sports days on the calendar holding two such events per year. Reports of large crowds of people arriving from Hull on the steamer "Isle of Axholme" was documented in the Hull Times of 9th August 1913.
  Events like the greasy pole, barrel races and sculling a cog boat over a course with and without blindfold were common to most of the sports days but more unusual (at least today) events were very popular. The ladies log sawing was well attended, as was the duck hunt in which a number of flightless ducks were released to be re-caught by the competitors, whether in the water or not. A washing competition for girls was another featured at the South Ferriby Regatta of 1913.
In all the sports days in the area there were only two places where the events involved a barge race. Hull had been hosting a regatta since 1874 and had for its climax of river races the keel race, either up or down river depending on the state of tide. The Hull Regatta and the keel races continued until 1903. The second place was Barton upon Humber, where a regatta was established in 1887, no doubt following a similar format to the one at Hull with various activities on the river involving small sailing boats and games. Again the whole event centred on the barge match, this time with sloops. The race was known as "The Cock of the Humber" and to the winning captain was granted the privilege of flying a copper cockrel atop the mast for that year.
The Barton Watermens Regatta continued until the outbreak of war in 1914.
 After the war years Barton's regatta was resurrected by the Barton branch of the British Legion in 1922 just one year after the Legion was formed on 15th May 1921. The organisers of the Barton Watermans Regatta before WW1 would have been a committee of Barton and district merchantmen, traders and watermen. By 1922 the organisers were perhaps the very merchantmen and traders of the pre war days, but who were now the doctors, prominent businessmen, shipbuilders, JP's, Army and Royal Naval Officers of the town representing the Royal British Legion. The major players in this resurrection in 1922 and those who gave continued support of the Barton regatta where; 
Mr Henry Wilson JP (President), Lieutenant Colonel H. G. Wilson DSO.JP (Vice President),
Mr H. Screeton (Chairman), Mr D.K. Ockleton (Secretary), Captain William Stamp (Judge),
Mr Oswold Foster (Judge), Chief Officer E.C. Pack RN, Coastguards (Time keeper),
Sir J.D. Berkley Sheffield, Bart, MP., Sir W.A. Gelder, Dr Bradnack, Mr J.C. Stevenson, Mr P.M. Hornsby, Mr B. Barraclough Jnr., Mr James Barraclough JP., Mr W.H. Warren, Messrs Clapson and Sons,
Mr W. Harvey JP., Mr O. Wass JP., Major George Canty C.C., Mr W. Dewey, Mr W. McGraw,
Mr D.W Massey, Mr J.A Hamond.
Enthusiasm for the event was fuelled by the offer of a cup to be provided by Lt Col Wilson named as the "Challenge Cup", and it was reported, "life was infused into the project".
 The first race held on 5th August 1922 attracted 10 vessels. "The competition was open to all class of river cargo boat, iron or wood". All vessels with a crew of no more than 5 persons to start from anchor with sails furled using only two sails and towing a cog boat for safety; burgees or a pennant of distinguishing colours to be flown for identification by the race judges. The race was to start off Barton Point at 08:00 with the comparative cannon fired at 07:55. The race was reported on thus;
 " Fortunately, the weather was all that could be desired, and the public by their presence at the Humberside made the event popular. Ten vessels competed but only four of them completed the course. The course was round Burcam Buoy. The following were the successful competitors:
1. Eva and Lucy (captain. Arthur Headley) time 3:21 pm. 2. Lucy (captain. John Simpson) time 3:30 pm.        3. Dora (captain. J. Codd) time 4:31 pm. 4. Providence (captain. F. Harness) time 4:40 pm.

Site created May 2009

By Kath Jones & Alan Gardiner.

If anyone has any memories of working for James Barraclough or have a story about working on Phyllis or any of the Barraclough barges we would like to hear from you.
If you have any comments or questions on the content of the site or would like to add something to it regarding any of the sloops we would also like to hear from you.


Interesting Links

Humber Keel & Sloop Preservation Society.

National Historic Ships Reg.

Thames Barges

Goole Waterways Museum.
Dutch Barge Association.
In The Boat Shed.
The presentation of prizes took place at the Victory Club in the evening, which was filled with seamen and other ex-service men.
 Mrs Stevenson whose husband on behalf of his wife stated that the occasion was particularly pleasing to her carried out the presentation of the prizes. Mrs Stevenson's late father had been the pioneer of the
After the success of the 1922 regatta a repeat of the event was assured in future years. Reports of the event varied in detail from year to year and not all the vessels involved were recorded. In 1923 the wooden vessels were given 30 minutes head start on the steel vessels and by 1925 the "Challenge Cup" had been won outright by Capt Frank Hoodless with the sloop "Cranbeck" on winning the competition for the third year in succession. A replacement cup was to be provided by Col Wilson.
Humber Packet Boats.
Leicester Trader.
Humber Yawl Club.
Brilliant Star

Rodney Clapson

Richlow Books

Sailing Barge Research

West Country Keels

Waterways of the Humber
By Christine Richardson.

Barges and Docks

Sheffield Ships.

 Sloop "Amy Howson"

 Sloop "Spider T.

 Keel "Comrade".

 Keel "Daybreak".

 Keel "Southcliffe".

 Keel "Hope".

 Keel "Eden".


The Barton Regatta

Leeboards Explained

Telling The Differance


Contact Us Here

  • Left is the newspaper write up of the 1927 Watermans Regatta that appeared in the Scunthorpe Star. Not all reports were as detailed as this one in the Star or the Lincolnshire Times. It's noticeable that the organiser's names have been published in this article as with others and it is no doubt because of these people that the events from 1922 had been so publicised.
  • 1926 saw two cups presented; to the winning iron boat was awarded the "King Tut" cup and the winning wooden boat was awarded the "Greenwood" cup both mentioned in the clipping left. With the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in 1922 there was much excitement surrounding "King Tut" at the time, it must have been a popular choice to name the new cup after him. Local businessman Mr J.J Greenwood provided the "Geenwood Cup". There were also cash prizes offered by local businessmen and these were said to be around 100 worth of prizes. A lot of money in those days: in comparison to today the prize money would be worth a little over 4,000.
  • To list all the results from all the races would take up more pages than practical, however a full list has been made and deposited with Brian Peeps the HKSPS archivist. Here is the list of winning vessels:
  • The Winners.
  • 1922. Eva & Lucy, Capt Arthur Headley. (Challenge Cup)
  • 1923. Cranbeck, Capt Frank Hoodless. (Challenge Cup)
  • 1924. Cranbeck, Capt Frank Hoodless. (Challenge Cup)
  • 1925. Cranbeck, Capt Frank Hoodless. (Challenge Cup)
  • 1926. Alva S, Capt T. Simpson. (King Tut Cup, iron vessels)
  • 1926. Thistle, Capt Hobman. (Greenwood Cup, wooden vessels)
  • 1927. Elma, Capt J. W. Barraclough. (King Tut Cup)
  • 1927. Faxfleet, Capt Harry Hodgson. (Greenwood Cup)
  • 1928. Saxby. Capt J.C. East. (King Tut Cup)
  • 1928. Faxfleet, Capt Harry Hodgson. (Greenwood Cup)
  • 1929. Saxby, Capt J.C East. (King Tut Cup)
  • 1929. Faxfleet, Capt Harry Hodgson (Greenwood Cup)
  • Alan Gardiner.  © 2011                          
Capt Harry Hodgson retained the Greenwood Cup in 1929 after winning it for the third time in succession with the sloop "Faxfleet", Mr J.J Greenwood offered another cup to replace it but as we now know it was to be the last race.
No official account of the incident concerning "Saxby" and the running down of the cog boat of "Zenitha" in that last race can be found. Capt Arthur Foster on "Zenitha" entered in his diary "Came second" and underlined it several times. No doubt an indication of his frustration. To add insult to injury one of Capt Fosters crew demanded a wage for the day. Needless to say, he didn't get it.
Barton Regatta Sloop Race 1929
Above. The steam tug "Frenchman" as she may always have done presides over the sloop race on the Humber in August of 1929. The pennant seen flying from her masthead is on display at the Baysgarth House Museum in Barton and is the original pennant from 1887, the copper cockerel is also on display there as part of the HKSPS collection.
 The steam tug "Frenchman " was at this time owned by United Towing and while employed on the Humber as a tug in the winter months she was used as a trip boat at Bridlington during the summer.
Sloops that are listed and took part in the Barton Watermens Regatta between 1922 and 1929.  
Alice, Alva S, Betty, Beatrice, Britannia, Burgate, Clarence T, Cranbeck, Dora, Doris, Emily, Eva and Lucy, Ever Ready, Faxfleet, Fred, Harry, Henry, Humber T, Ivanhoe, Ivy, Lilian and May, Lucy, Mavis, Muriel Mystery, Paradise, Peace, Pearl, Providence, Resolute, Salvager, Saxby, Spider T, Swinefleet, Thistle, Verdon, Walcot, Zenitha.
The oldest sloop to take part and which came 5th in 1926 in the wooden ship category was "Walcot" Capt G. F. Peck, being built by John Wray at Burton Stather in 1854. The youngest was "Spider T" Capt M. Codd, in the steel ship category built by W. H. Warren at New Holland in 1926. She came close to winning her first race in that year but was unable to catch "Alva S" Capt T. Simpson, and had to settle for 2nd place. The sloop "Walcot" was only mentioned in the 1926 listings, "Spider T" went on to enter all the remaining regattas with mixed fortune.
The entries for the races were varied in number, the most entries that are listed was twenty vessels in the 1928 regatta, the least being six in 1924. By the last regatta in 1929 the British Legion had successfully hosted eight events bringing together the bargees of the South bank of the Humber to demonstrate their skills in direct competition on the river using the tools of their trade.
 Interestingly the general strike of 1926 had little or no effect on the running of the Watermen's Regatta, with thirteen entries suggesting that the camaraderie between the sloopmen and the relationship between them and the merchant men that controlled their employment was solid enough to sustain such social pursuits in that troubled time. The Barton regatta was an event instigated by the men and women of the Barton branch of the British Legion with the aim to bring the community together after WW1 and achieved exactly that. The reason for the halt to the Watermen's Regattas in 1929 remains uncertain; the most likely explanation seems to be the disbanding of the Barton branch of the British Legion at that time.
References from; William Foster, The British Legion, HKSPS archive, Humber Shipping by Michael E. Ulyatt & Edward W. Paget –Tomlinson, Hull Times, Lincolnshire Times, Scunthorpe Star.
       Alan Gardiner.  © 2011                          
Leeboards Explained. (Probably)
The subject of leeboards on a keel or sloop has given rise to all sorts of questions and inquiries as to what they actually do and how we use them. There have been article's written in Slabline in the past but have stopped short of explaining the real purpose of them. I will try to explain without getting technical or using any complicated drawings and formula to confuse you, about just what we use leeboards for and how we use these wonderful things. Having sailed with them for 25 years I have learned to use their properties to great advantage in lots of situations on the Humber and it's tributaries, and sometimes choosing not to use them at all.
The use of leeboards on a working sloop or keel in say1890 would in some ways be quite different to the way we use them on Comrade or Amy Howson today. We do not have the experience of handling a loaded barge under sail nor the expertise of driving down tide with a light ship using the anchor or bridled drudge, both of these skills may have involved the use of leeboards in a way we no longer need today. Although the use of leeboards on a loaded vessel would be not be common practice there will have been situations that a board would have been dropped to aid manoeuvring, where today we think nothing of starting the engine if things are getting a bit, shall we say, interesting. Therefore, it wouldn't be true to assume that the following text is relating to those times, although I'm sure that there are similarities. The skills of the pasts Captains may well be understood but they will never be equalled.
I am not going to go into the history or speculate who first invented leeboards because that's all been said before, I will touch on the requirements for the shape of them but again, I'm not going to get too technical. For now, let's imagine a leeboard to be a flat, triangular piece of wood, 13ft from point to base and 6ft wide at the bottom, hung by a head chain at the pointed end from the deck and raised or lowered with a tail chain (or chaser) attached to the bottom and leading to a roller aft. Therefore, we have about 5ft of board below the bottom of the ship when the board is lowered.
 Most people you talk to, including the more experienced sailors amongst them, will tell you that with the leeboard down it stops leeway. No such luck, although the nearer the ship points to the wind the more the leeway will be reduced, nothing will stop leeway on a 70ton flat bottomed barge in a tide-way with wind on her beam, but contrary to popular belief, that's not what we particularly want from them. Because we work with the flow of the tide we are using it to help our progression up or down river and so spend a lot of time going sideways anyway, so we sometimes don't want to stop leeway at all. What we can expect with the use of leeboards on a barge is a very negligible degree of leeway being reduced working to windward, but more importantly an ability to change the barges heading and eventually the direction of travel very easily. It is this ability to make sure that the barge can be turned through the wind to change tack that we need, which in turn will allow a change in the direction we are travelling in.
The leeboard relies on forward travel and the constant leeway of the ship that exerts pressure against the board to work, although the sides of the ship have some degree of resistance to being pushed sideways through the water, that resistance is spread along the full length of the hull of the barge fairly evenly because they are basically flat sided from stem to stern. Without them there is no specific point that the ship would be happy to pivot around unlike a yacht would do around its keel. During a stay (tack) the barge would either take far too much sea room to turn or wouldn't complete the turn at all if we didn't have the lee-side board down, with 5ft of it below the bottom of the ship to give it that extra resistance in a specific place along the hull and create a pivot point. Even at relatively slow speed the ship will react favourably to the helm with the use of that pivotal point provided by the leeboard.
There are many things written about leeboards and what shape they should be, I think they should be whatever shape you think works best for your ship. The Dutch use three basic design of board with additional variation depending on what work the boat was engaged in and where. The ultimate requirement of the leeboard is to make sure the ship turns into and through the wind when required to do so in order to change tack, to be sure of doing so is worth a mile of leeway!
When under way the board is pressed to the side by the leeway of the ship so could be completely flat to the ships side giving relatively low drag against forward motion. Some think barge leeboards should be shaped like a wing, convex on the inside and flat on the outer surface so as forward travel through the water will increase the pressure on the side of the ship to help reduce the dreaded leeway, on small sail boats like the Friesland scow I would agree but with a barge I would think it would require a leeboard of immense proportion to work and would be useless unless doing a considerable speed through the water (not very often). However, we do need something to make the board hold to the side of the ship at low speed, a skating (floating) board is no use and creates drag, which during a stay could prevent a turn through the wind, so a small amount of angle on the board is desirable to help prevent it. This can be obtained by chamfering the plank edges that make up the board to create a slight curve concave to the side of the ship, or have a completely flat board with a tapered chock on the trailing or after edge (when lowered) to create toe-in of the board. Or a mixture of the two. I'm told that early wooden keels and sloops had a chock fastened to the side of the ship for the board to lie onto that facilitated toe-in. The amount of toe-in can be adjusted by the thickness of the chock to suit the characteristics of the ship; the less toe-in you use the less drag you get, the more you use the more the effect the board has against any leeway but creates lots of drag.
 However, we need to understand the effect they have on the ship to begin to use them to greater advantage and the leeboard has a direct relationship in terms of position they are mounted on the hull's side with the centre of effort of the sails and therefore the handling qualities of the ship.
 Let's take Amy Howson as an example. If you can imagine the shape of her combined fore sail and main sail having wind blown at it from the side, now draw an imaginary vertical line and locate it so as there is as much sail area forward of it as there is aft. Now do the same horizontally, with the same sail area below the line and above it. Where those lines cross is the centre of effort of the sails (I said I was going to do this simply!). It's the vertical line we're more interested in, because that is the point along the hull at which we need to base the head chain position of our leeboard on, it has to be forward of the line. How much is dependant on other factors such as the hull characteristics, aspect ratio of the sail (don't ask) and dimensions of the board, as far as I know there is no formula to calculate it and is a matter of experience. In many cases sloops, and keels for that matter, were rigged using the sailing gear from one or more donor ships so hull and sail may not have been an ideal match. The shape of any keel or sloop hull differed to the requirements of the owner; the most significant feature that affects the balance and sailing characteristics of a ship is the length of the run aft. This is the part of the bottom of the hull that starts to rise up and taper in towards the rudder post; being anything between 22 and 28 feet on a Sheffield size hull from the start of the run to the rudderpost. Keels generally had a very short run to maximise cargo space but the sloops were given a much longer run to enable them to sail more efficiently, on a 68ft sloop it could be up to 34 feet. The long run allows the ship to more readily come about due to the increased flow of water over the skeg and rudder, generally, the longer the run the better the ship handled. Although the cargo space was reduced by the run, the holds were often made deeper to compensate depending on the owner's instructions to the builder. So for example, if we have a keel that has been converted to a sloop which was the usual thing to do, and the rig taken from a donor sloop, we may not have the mast stepped in just the right place or the sails cut exactly right to suit the hull and make the ship sail efficiently. For example; we know that cutter rigged sloops were reduced to simple fore and aft rigs between 1880 and 1910 loosing their bowsprit, jib and topsail. They will then have suffered from severe weather helm if the main sail area hadn't been reduced, with the leech of the main sail being taken from above the after rail (horse rail) to above the aft head ledge, the sail area therefore being reduced by some 7ft from the after leech. Bringing the centre of effort of the sails forward nearer the leeboard. Another result of loosing the cutter rig was to have the gaff peaked up higher thus producing more sail area and again favourably altering the centre of effort.
If incorrect, the centre of effort in relation to the leeboard position and hull characteristics will either produce excessive weather helm, with a severe tendency to turn into wind which results in having to hold the tiller over constantly to try and counter it, or much worse, lee helm, a tendency to push her head round and turn away from the wind being very difficult to turn her back into wind when needed and also requires lots of counter helm. Either condition can result in an unmanageable ship to sail. Although there are ways to alter the balance of a ship by manipulating the sails, lets just for the sake of this article ignore the sails and look at the part the leeboard plays.
Weather helm is the easiest to compensate for because we want to keep some of it; we move the leeboard head chain aft to reduce the effect of the problem by using the resistance created by the leeboard to alter the balance of the hull in the water against the centre of effort of the sail. Think of it like a seesaw with a different weight at each end, by moving the pivot point in the middle (our leeboard) nearer the heavy end (centre of effort of the sails) we can still get the thing to balance. In effect the centre of effort of the sail becomes nearer to the boards that are providing resistance to it, therefore reducing the amount of rudder angle required to correct it. Lee helm is where the centre of effort is too far forward, forcing the ships head round (not good). The boards are then moved forward away from the centre of effort to produce a small amount of weather helm. If it's not practical to move the boards any further forward because of other rigging, or indeed the centre of effort further back because of the requirements of the sail, the only thing to do is to extend the area of the board further forward from the centre of effort. This can be done by adding a cutwater to the forward or leading edge of the board to extend the area of the board forward of the centre of effort. You will notice that Comrade has her boards located in a position at the base of the mast; because she has a square sail this is its centre of effort. Although the keel sail can be trimmed, in basic terms there is the same sail area in front of the mast as there is behind it. The cutwater she has takes the front of the leeboard further away from this central position, making the centre of effort further back from the front edge of the board and with the mast being stepped more central along the hull gives the ship a degree of weather helm that is desirable. Cutwaters were not however restricted to use on keels; sloops also similarly used them. I'm not saying that all the pictures you see of leeboards with cutwaters mean the ship has a handling problem, not at all. They were most certainly used to fine-tune a ships rig to handle just a bit better than someone else's, sloop or keel alike. Likewise I have in the past moved the boards on Amy Howson up or down the traveller depending on the weather conditions to change the balance on the helm, forward in light airs and backwards in a strong wind. In the days of trade time was money and speed was essential, every day was a race day, recovering from a missed stay was precious time lost. The cutwater had other advantage's, it adds area to the bottom of the board when it's lowered and creates more sideways resistance in the water making it more effective, the down side is it creates more drag and is heavier to handle. Secondly, with more area at the front of the board it gives the maximum available area under the boat in shallow water when the board may have been partially lifted to stop it dragging over a bank or when being used in a canal to help prevent lateral drift caused by water flow around the ship when being towed as described by John Frank in one of his accounts in an article for the Mariners Mirror in the 50's. Although leeboards could be unshipped and left at lock or staith, if you could do the trip without doing so money was saved. 
 The way we time the use of leeboards is sometimes very crucial, we may have to change tack quickly because we are being set onto a light float or, as more usual, because we are tacking across the deep water channel and are running out of water. As the ship is turned into the wind speed reduces quickly. By the time she is head to wind, the once lee-side board can begin to skate particularly in a swell creating drag, and it is here that we need to reel it in before it can stop the ship from continuing her turn. As we get her head just through the wind and the sail starts to fill from the other side the new lee-side board can be let go allowing the ship to lean on it to complete her turn and continue on the opposite tack. If the skating board isn't hauled in it creates drag on that side of the ship and its possible to end up in "irons" and be stuck head to wind at the mercy of the tide, or be blown back round onto the previous tack with no sea room and little or no way on. Likewise if the new lee-side board is let go too early the ship can stop turning. The timing for operation of leeboards differs slightly from keel to sloop but the reasons for using them and the dangers that can be encountered are the same. Knowing just when to haul and when to drop your boards along with keeping the ship moving are the key features of a successful stay particularly in difficult conditions. A new crew will learn quickly to heed commands from the skipper in such situations and a good crew will need no command at all.
A secondary use of the leeboard is that of depth sounder. With 5ft below the ship the board will obviously ground first and kick up or shudder as the water gets shallow and it trails on the sand below the ship, with the shout of "leeboard" the helm will be put over to bring her off the bank and round onto the opposite tack. This must be done smartly as the 5ft warning the board gives you can very quickly reduce to 4 and then 2 and then aground with a broken leeboard as a bonus. An experienced crew will already be waiting for the shout and be ready at their stations ready to go about, but it only takes something to go wrong like a snagged bowline or a jammed sheet to put you on the bank so the skipper has to be on his or her toes when relying on this method of sounding to be able to use all the available water and gain favourable position for the next tack. It's said that this is where the saying "touch and go" comes from, because when you touch, you go. Meaning that it's as near as you want to be, to being in trouble.
                                           Alan Gardiner.  ©2010.


Telling The Difference.


Many publications concerning the Humber's sloops and keels often have one statement in common that is incorrect but has influenced peoples idea of what a Humber sloop was. The statement reads similar to this: "The hull of a sloop is the same as that of a keel but has a fore and aft (or gaff) sailing rig". It is even believed by many that the Humber sloop was somehow developed from a keel.

  The statement is only relevant to some aspects of the ships when related mainly to the Sheffield size of keel and sloop. Both have a bluff bow and round stern housing a cabin at each end; they both have similar deck equipment with the obvious difference in sail handling gear. The hulls are also similarly constructed whether in steel or wood. These craft were required to fit snugly into the locks that they traded through, a bluff bow and stern enabled maximum buoyancy from the forward and aft cabin area within that restricted overall length and width in turn allowing maximum cargo to be carried. Of course keels could be re-rigged with a sloop rig as was "Amy Howson" and would without doubt therefore have been the same as a keel. However, there's more to it than that. Having restored, sailed and studied the Humber's sloops over quite a few years now I thought I should address the matter, and show the distinctions between the sloops and keels, and look at the differences between the Humber sloops and their Sheffield size companions.  HYC Keel                                           

Left is a print of a Sheffield Keel from the HYC yearbook of 1901 that also appears in Tony Watts book, Holmes of the Humber. ISBN 978-1-907206-00-9. Note the short contour lines depicting the shape of her stern.

Although quite capable of trading to other places these Sheffield sized ships earned their name through their dimensions (61ft 6" by 15ft 8") that allowed them to reach Sheffield basin via Tinsley flight. Other sizes of craft like the Market Weighting sloops earn their name accordingly based on their dimensions. There were in fact ten different sizes of vessel (predominantly associated with the keel) named by the waterways on which they traded. However, the Sheffield sloops had differing sailing characteristics and were also required to work on the lower Humber and did so in sometimes challenging conditions. This demanded a greater degree of sailing efficiency from the hull of the sloop over the hull of a keel.

 That sailing efficiency was accomplished using one particular prominent feature from the Humber sloop, which was the run aft of the hull. The longer the better but a long run did compromise cargo space.

  The run of a hull is the name given to the part of the ship that rises up toward the stern from its bottom and twists up to 90deg where it then meets the sternpost. The purpose of the run is to allow an unrestricted and constant water flow over the rudder, which enables the vessel to be steered, it also reduces the effect of drag during the water displacement induced by the forward movement of the ship and gives added longitudinal stability. Therefore the difference seldom recognised between the Sheffield sloops and their working companion the keel, is below the water. Don't take my word for it; we have examples of these ships to prove it. Given the opportunity, have a look at Sheffield keels "Onesimus" or "Southcliffe" to see how short their run is, about 22ft, and compare them with Sheffield sloop "Spider T" and then with Humber sloop "Phyllis". Unfortunately we will never see them all out of the water at the same time and in the same place.

 It should however be noted that according to Capt Fred Schofield the sea going keels that traded up to the end of the 19th century also employed a longer run than that of the river keel for the same purpose as the sloops.

 The Humber sloop could not have been more different from a keel. They were equally at home in the Humber or working along the east coast, trading to the Wash ports and south to London or north to Bridlington and Newcastle, and to creeks and inlets in between. They were strong and seaworthy vessels, with, in the later part of the 19th century, a carvel built hull planked with 2" thick oak, formed over oak frames 5" square and about 9" apart depending on the overall size of the vessel. With two hold areas, the sparring deck, that was not found on a keel, made room between the fore and aft holds to support the mast mounted on deck over a frame made up of four huge beams under the deck about 10" square, again depending on the size of the vessel. The two triple halyard rollers were also mounted on the sparring deck abeam the mast. These coasting sloops carried a pole mast (one piece) or a topmast and steeving bowsprit being able to hoist a topsail, jib and jib topsail or a second jib and were equipped with leeboards giving excellent sail balance and according to author George Holmes were well known for their speed. A 68ft sloop had a run length of half its length giving excellent manoeuvrability and best of all reduced drag allowing the speed that gave the sloops their reputation. Author John Leather quoting George Holmes wrote. 

 "The sloops where locally known for their speed, the best being able to beat a steamer from Hull to Goole given a fair wind and tide in the days when the steamers could average 9kts". George Holmes was referring to the big wooden sloops of the late 19th century carrying one or more jibs and a topsail.


      Above is Humber sloop "Hydro" in full sail while at anchor c1900, she would have been a common sight to George Holmes on the Humber. His description of the Humber sloop is probably the most accurate.

 Coupled with purposeful hull lines and plenty of sail they were adequate at sea and its said that some also made passage to Holland and France. Their trade was in wheat, coal, bricks, phosphates, tanning products, wool and farm produce to support many small inlet villages on the east coast as well as the London trade, mainly in coal.

 Apart from economics there was no requirement to restrain the length or breadth of a Humber sloop and the sloops were usually larger vessels than the keels. The wooden vessels, both river and seagoing, ranged in size up to 68ft in length with a beam exceeding 17ft and over 8ft depth of hold. The later steel vessels reached 72ft in length. 

  A few large keels of 74ft loa and 17ft beam were built for the river Trent trade, these were only about 5ft depth of hold so pay load was at a minimum. Records show that "Tealo" built at WH Warrens in 1923 for S. Carmichael, was a huge keel of 75ft loa by 17ft 8" beam and 8ft 6" depth of hold, with a dead weight of 225 tons. If records are correct she must have been the biggest steel keel built. However, she seems to have been the exception rather than the rule.

 The bow and stern of a Humber sloop was much less acute or less bluff than seen on the Sheffield size of vessel giving a greater length of the decks forward and aft. It was common for Humber sloops to have bulwarks, sometimes all round but often just around the bow and stern. These created a dryer and safer environment for the crew at sea and looked much like another of the Humber's sailing vessels, the Billy boy. Its possible that the term sloop rigged Billy boy may have been used to describe such vessels; A Billy boy is generally accepted locally as being a ketch, with a prominent sheer and a round bow and stern. Some had a clipper bow but a bluff bow was more common. These craft had all round bulwarks and usually wheel steering. The more beamy examples sometimes described as a "dickie" had no leeboards but carried a standing bowsprit with a number of jib sails and perhaps a square topsail. The sailing rig and number of sails varied.

Below is again the carvel built Humber sloop "Hydro" anchored in the Trent, the sparring deck, halyard roller arrangement and the hatches on the twin holds are clear to see. The size of the fore deck and a more pointed bow are also well demonstrated in this HKSPS archive photograph. 

NG-45 Sloop

The inland sloops like the Sheffield size and the later all steel sloops after 1900 would have a single hold. These sloops being equipped with halyard rollers mounted on the combings sideways on to work the halyards. Hence named "crab rollers". The last steel constructed Humber sloop that had a twin holds and a sparring deck was "Brilliant Star" built in 1893 now slowly decaying half sunk in Wakefield. A sad end to a once proud ship.

HYC Print

  Above is another print from Tony Watts book, "Holmes of the Humber", showing "Autumn" a 68ft Humber sloop built by W.L Scarr and owned by Mr John Deheer of Hull, again from the HYC yearbook, this time 1903. The print shows a river sloop with a single hold and without a bowsprit but rigged with a jack-yard topsail. Sketches by George Holmes around the print show differently rigged sloops at key points along the Humber, Trent and Ouse. The difference in the length and number of the contour lines depicting the stem and stern of the ship in this example compared to the previous print of the keel is very apparent, demonstrating the much more efficient lines of the sloop against the keel.

 By 1914 the seaward trade for the sloops had gone, most sloops now were built of steel and increasingly to the smaller Sheffield size to trade alongside the keels in river and canal work, a short bluff bow and stern on these sloops would therefore be required for the same reason as for the keels. The Sheffield sloops would also loose their bowsprit and topsails in favour of a simpler and more convenient rig of just main and foresail for river use. Its evident however that the local market boats kept their bowsprit and a single jib for some time after.

 The Sheffield sloop, being a derivative of the Humber sloop, inherited the big sloops long run although to a somewhat lesser proportion depending on the owner's instruction to the builder. From plans at the Hull Maritime Museum it can be established that a typical Sheffield sloop like "Spider T" had a run of 25ft compared to 34ft on a 68ft Humber sloop. The Sheffield sloops however remained relatively quick compared to the keel. In later life after being motorised, the de-rigged sloops were favoured over the keels for towing, another property of the longer run.

 The evolution of each of these craft had been shaped by the changing industry and requirements of river and coastal transport over centuries. The evolvement of both types of Humber ship, keel or sloop, no doubt also had influence from the many nationalities of vessels trading to the Humber, the Dutch being most probably the greatest in the fact that they brought us the gaff sail which enabled the conception of the Humber sloop. The concept of the design of the Humber sloop was developed through the necessity of coastal trade in the 18th century, the Dutch being the most prolific trader into the Humber simply demonstrated the efficiency of the gaff sail over the square sail. The Humber sloop and the Humber keel were without doubt different vessels and although in a later diversion of the sloop looked very similar, the sloop was initially a quite separately evolved ship. Not a development of a keel.

 Perhaps now that we have a more established knowledge and a broader collection of craft in our midst future authors through reference to them and the knowledge base of the HKSPS can gather a more accurate understanding of the evolution of the Humber's sloop and the part it played in the industrial development along the Humber and its tributaries. 


 By. Alan Gardiner. HKSPS (                            © 05/08/2011

 References from: The Hull Maritime Museum. Barton and the River Humber 1086-1900, Rodney Clapson. Holmes of the Humber, Tony Watts. The archive of the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society.

Humber Keels and Keelmen, Fred Schofield. Mr Harold Harness.



[Home Page] [A Short History] [The Building] [Documents] [Sloop Plans] [The Rescue] [Phyllis at Work] [The Journey Home] [The Restoration.] [Square Rigged Sloops] [Gravel Sloops] [Barton Regatta] [Water Colour Sloop] [Back Under Sail] [The Clippers] [Picture Gallery]